July 2009

7-25-09 Canal Park

I decided to make a trip to Akron OH today.  The reason was two fold.  One, I found someone willing to part with 4th row Dave Matthews Band tickets.  Two, the Altoona Curve (Pirates AA affiliate) were in Akron for a weekend series.

I began by visiting a hotel in Akron OH to buy the DMB tickets.  I didn’t buy the tickets off just any DMB fan.  I bought them off a professional softball player.  Her name was Nicole Trimboli, and she is one of the stand outs for the Chicago Bandits pro softball team.  They had a series against Akron’s pro softball team.  If you’re not a softball fan, you’ve probably heard of one of her teammates – widely regarded as the most popular softball player of all time – Jennie Finch.

I didn’t meet Finch, but I met some of her teammates, one of whom I sold DMB tickets to.

Upon arriving at Canal Park, there was no batting practice, so I searched beyond the left field fence and found three baseballs.

One was a Major League Baseball, well used.  (And no, it doesn’t count in my official collection – only balls at MLB games do – regular and post season).

I then watched the Altoona Curve warm up, and snapped some photos of the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects.

Jose Tabata stretching:
100_1963.jpgGorkys Hernandez chats with his girlfriend:
Pedro Alvarez signs a baseball for me.  That’s right!  I got him to sign an Arizona Fall League ball that I had with me.
100_1966.jpgDuring the game, we sat down the right field line, because all of the sections were basically empty.  I was hoping to get a game ball.  I wouldn’t have to wait long.

Up stepped the #1 prospect in the Cleveland Indians system, Carlos Santana.
top prospects.jpgSantana had 117 RBI last year, and already has 70 RBI this year.

Santana dug into the box and lauched a deep fly ball to left field.  It was a three run home run.  The ball bounced off a concrete walkway behind the left field wall, took a huge hop into some trees and disappeared.

I didn’t wait.  I left the stadium and ran the entire way to the area behind the left field wall to claim the ball.  I looked in the trees and the area behind the wall.  I didn’t see it.  Then I checked the water.

There it was.
It was floating towards a 20 foot high water fall.
If I didn’t act fast, the ball was a goner.  It was about 15-20 feet from the falls when I got to the scene.  I grabbed onto the railing, laid flat on my stomach and reached as far down as I could into the canal.  I was just barely able to grab the ball.

It was a perfect Eastern League ball, what I had been after all day.
It was also my first game home run ball of the season.  Although it won’t count in my major league official stats, it’s still a keeper.

Hopefully Carlos Santana becomes a star for the Indians in a year or two.

I stayed outside the park for an inning and a half, hoping to get another homer.  (If I wanted to, I could watch the entire game outside the park for free, and have almost a 100% chance of getting any home runs that came out.)
photo(174).jpgI re-entered the park, buying the cheapest ticket.

A few action shots:

Jose Tabata
100_1969.jpgPedro Alvarez (doing a Derek Jeter’esque time out request)
100_1972.jpgPedro would take the next pitch deep.  The ball cleared both bullpens and hit just below the scoreboard in right center field.  It had to be about 450 feet or more.  It was a bomb.
100_1971.jpgAlvarez congratulated at home plate:
100_1973.jpgPedro Alvarez now has 20 HR and 70 RBI’s this season.

The Pirates home run leader is Garett Jones with 10, and the RBI leader is Andy LaRoche with 37.

Needless to say, I can’t wait until Pedro Alvarez is on the big league club.

Here’s a look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots (I decided to number minor league baseballs in black ink.  I do all baseballs obtained at MLB games in blue ink)
100_1977.jpgAnd by the way, since I mentioned Jennie Finch, how about a run down of the top 100 female athletes of all time?  I got these from the bleacher report

100. Ashley Harkleroad, tennis
99.  Christa Alves, surfer

98. Candace Parker, basketball

97.  Anni Friesinger-Postma, skater

96.  Sandra Gal, golf
95.  Jeannette Lee,
94.  Katarina Witt, skating

93.  Kari Traa, skiing

92.   Hope Solo, soccer

91.  Biba Golic, ping pong

90.  Mia St John, boxing

89.  Gretchen Bleiler, snowboarding

88.  Logan Tom, volleyball

87.      Erin Phillips, basketball

86.  Hannah Teter, snowboarding

85.  Kimberly Lansing, poker

84.  Missy Gibson, surfer

83.  Ashley Constantine, surfer

82.  Kiira Korpi

81.  Kajsa Bergqvist, high jumper

80.  Jennie Finch

79.  Sasha Cohen, figure skater

78.  Christina Vukicevic, hurdles

77.  Amy Acuff, high jump

76.  Lolo Jones, hurdles

75.  Dallas Friday, wakeboarder

74.  Gabrielle Reece

73.  Vera Zvonareva, tennis

72.   Jamie Sale, skater

71.  Trish Stratus, WWE Wrestler

70.  Clair Bidez, snowboarder

69.  Victoria Azarenka, tennis

68.  Allison Baver, speed skater

67.  Alina Kabaeva, gymnast

66.  Misty May, volleyball

65.  Ana Paula Mancino, volleyball

64.  Lacy Schnoor, freestyle skiier

63.  Amanda Beard, swimmer

62.  Lara Gut,  skiier

61.  Natalie Gulbis

60.  Linn Haug, snowboarder

59.  Milene Domingues, soccer

58.  Juliana Veloso, swimmer

57.  Victoria Vanucci, tennis

56.  Daniela Hantuchova, tennis

55.  Laisa Andriolo, soccer

54.  Danica Patrick, NASCAR

53.  Caroline Wozniacki, tennis

52.  Tatiana Grigorieva, pole vaulter

51.  Bianca Cruz, softball, and Jason Pridie’s girlfriend

50.  Liv Boeree, poker

49.  Tanith Belbin, ice dancer

48.  Ashley Force Hood, NHRA Funny Car driver

47.  Maria Verchenova

46.  Claudia Toth, curling

45.  Anna Rowson, golf

44.  Stephanie Rice, swimming

43.  Maria Kirilenko, tennis

42.  Alona Bondarenko, tennis

41.  Kristi Leskinen, freestyle skiier

40.  Michelle Waterson, karate

39.  Maria Sharapova, tennis

38.  Ashley Massaro, pro wrestler

37.  Jenn Brown, softball

36.  Miesha Tate, MMA

35.  Allison Stokke, pole vaulter

34.  Torrie Wilson, WWE WCW Wrestler

33.  Anna Kournikova, tennis

32.  Gina Carano, MMA

31.  Nastia Liukin

30.  Zlata, gymnast

29.  Blair O’Neal, golf

28.  Jennifer Barretta, pool

27.  Heather Mitts, soccer

26.  Anastasia Luppova, billiards

25.  Taira Turley, football

24.  Tapai Szabina, handball

23.  Kyra Gracie, Jiu-Jitsu and grappler

22.  Bia Feres and Branca Feres, swimmers

21.  Lindsey Vonn, skiier

20.  Anastasia Ashley, surfer

19.  Alex Morgan

18.  Sophie Horn, golf

17.  Brie Bella and Nikki Bella, wrestlers

16.  Sara Galimberti, track

15.  Maria Kanellis, WWE

14.  Amanda Coetzer, tennis

13. Lokelani McMichael, surfer and triathlete

12.  Anna Semenovich, ice dancer

11.  Melanie Adams, Pole Vaulter

10.  Tania Archer, sprinter

9.  Stacy Keibler, WCW and WWE Wrestler

8.  Ana Ivanovic, tennis

7.  Lauryn Eagle, pro boxer

6.  Kim Glass, volleyball

5.  Leryn Franco, javelin

4.  Shanelle Loraine, billiards

3.  Malia Jones

2.  Niki Gudex, cyclist

1.  Alana Blanchard, surfer

Hopefully that makes this entry a little more interesting, since it was a minor league game I attended.
Minors Statistics:
Minors Game: 4 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown)
Minors Season:  6 balls (5 hit, 1 thrown)
Minors Career:  6 balls

7-20-09 PNC Park

There was some rain forecast for today, but when I arrived at the ballpark at 3:55, the sun was shining, and there were only a few measly clouds in the sky.

While standing in line, I noticed a Brewers fan who randomly had a MLB baseball.  He didn’t have a glove or a bag or anything.  He had just walked up from the Riverwalk area.  Had he just gotten a ball out by the river?  Possibly.

Rather than standing there, I decided to head down to the Allegheny River and see if I could get on the board before the gates even opened.  There is some tall grass landscaping on a slope that leads down to a 20 foot wide walkway which borders the river.  Occasionally balls will get stuck in there that get hit out of the stadium or bounce on the stadium.  I looked, but found nothing.
I stood outside the stadium until 4:50, when I returned to line.  There was only one ball that I saw that had a realistic chance.  I caught it out of the corner of my eye and watched it hit the top of the Clemente wall and stay in the ballpark.  Like clockwork, within a minute, an usher appeared and picked up the ball.

When I returned to the line at 4:50, it began to drizzle.  Great.  Just great.

The drizzle was persistant, and was rather annoying.  I was worried that the groundscrew would put the tarp on the field and batting practice would be canceled.  Luckily, this wasn’t the case.  The rain was light enough that it allowed BP to continue. 

I got ball #1 of the day from Joel Hanrahan.  He fielded a ball, and didn’t throw it back towards the infield, so I stood in the front row with my glove up for about a minute.  He finally decided he didn’t want the ball anymore, and fired it at me.  It was a little high and away, but I was on the board.

I got ball #2 from Mike Defelice.  I remembered Shawn from Milwaukee giving me the tip of calling him Deefer.  It worked.

There wasn’t a ton of home runs hit.  And its a shame too, because there weren’t many people there during the first 30 minutes of season ticket holder time only. 
Game:  3 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 238 balls (125 hit, 78 thrown, 38 device)
Games:  49 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.86 balls per game
Career: 404 balls
Attendance:  11,471 (very April/May’ish attendance figure)

7-19-09 PNC Park

Awful day today.  I hate Sunday games.  I shouldn’t have gone.  The plan was to drive down, peek in through the gates and see if the cage was set up.  If it was, I would go for BP.  If it wasn’t, I would just leave, rather than running all over the stadium trying in desperation to get a ball.

The cage was set up.  Nice!

I entered the park around 11:15 or so – the Riverwalk gates open at 11:00 AM on Sunday.  All fans are confined to the outer open air concourse between right and center field for the first 30 minutes.  At 11:30, fans are allowed into the seating bowl.  It’s been that way every Sunday for the last three years.

So 11:30 rolled around, and no one from the security guard came to open the gate by the bullpen.  It was already unlocked, so when 11:30 came, I followed two ballhawks into the seating bowl.  Inexplicably, after about three minutes in left field, we were approached by two security guards.  They told us we had to leave because the gates open at noon.  We tried explaining that it was 11:30, and always had been, but he said, “No, they told us noon.”

As we were being ejected, one of the ballhawks managed to get a ball tossed by Ross Ohlendorf, and another ballhawk got a ball from John Grabow.  I got nothing.  I realized that I would miss most of BP, and was livid.

Today (Monday), I checked the Pirates website for the official policy on gate times:
Gee, all fans shall be admitted to the park 2 hours early on weekends (Saturday and Sunday).  So, 1:30 minus two hours is…. 11:30! 

What else would you expect from such an inept organization that hasn’t had a winning season in 17 years.  ******* ridiculous!    One season ticket holder who comes every Sunday was on the phone with his account rep.  The account rep said that we should be allowed in at 11:30, and would call security to straighten it out, and then call back.  The season ticket holder said he never got a call back from his rep.  Figures.

The backhanded move had many fans speculating that the Pirates wanted to save having to pay all of the ushers, security guards, and concessions workers 30 minutes of pay – by having them begin a half hour later.

I spent the next 30 minutes out on the riverwalk in right field waiting for a possible home run ball that never came.

Luckily, Tim Lincecum threw a ball to the crowd gathered outside of the seating area. 
Game:  1 ball (1 thrown)
Season:   235 balls (124 hit, 76 thrown, 35 device)
Games: 48 Games (5 didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.90 balls per game
Career: 401 balls
Attendance:  24,842

7-16-09 Progressive Field

I decided to attend this game in Cleveland, seeing as the Pirates were off and I would not be able to attend this weekend’s Friday and Saturday’s games due to a wedding.

I began the day with a career tally of 392 balls snagged.  I would need 8 to get to 400.  It would’ve been nice to get a landmark ball outside of PNC Park for once.

I arrived at the stadium at 3:35, and the Indians were already inside hitting.  It is not unusual for Indians to be taking early BP, I’ve seen it many times, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.

At the gates I was greeted by PNC Park ballhawks Bryan Pelescak and his brother Nick.  They were the first ones in line and had already snagged balls over outside the left field gates.  The top three ballhawks at PNC Park had all made the trip (We all have over 100 balls snagged apiece this season).  There would likely be some stiff competition today.

When the gates opened, I ran into the right field bleachers to search for Easter Eggs.  I ran down the center area of the right field seats, looking around quickly for any balls.  I got down to the front row and spotted a ball to my right.  I picked up ball #1.  On the board.  A few feet further in the same row was ball #2.  Another section over was ball #3.  I then spotted another ball but a police offer hurriedly went over and picked it up.  “I need this,” he snorted.  “It’s cool, I already found some,” I said.  I then ran over to Heritage Park.  This was within maybe a minute or two of the park opening, so I was hoping I would be the first one there.  However, a young ballhawk, maybe 14 years old had beaten me there.  He was trying to reach a ball that was at the back of the wall underneath the fence in heritage park.  He stood up and began to walk away, but then saw me out of the corner of his eye and went back to the spot.  I went over and asked if he had anything to get the ball with, he said he didn’t.  I got out my 72 inch ruler and told him he should also check the tall grass for balls.  It took me only a few seconds to push the ball closer to me, and I had ball #4.  I probably should’ve given it to the kid, but I was in such a hurry to get back to right field to look for more Easter Eggs that I just ran off.  I felt guilty a minute later as soon as I realized that I snubbed the kid.  It was a jerk move on my part.  I didn’t feel so bad after the teen sent me a nasty hateful email (apparently he knows of my blog – how else would he know to run directly to Heritage Park?) filled with swear words and random personal attacks.  (Don’t worry Marty R from Salem OH, I won’t post your message or any of your personal info here (IP address, etc)-I’m not going to sink that low – just think before you go spouting off) I’m sure next time he’ll be better prepared with a device of his own to get those hard to reach balls in Heritage Park.

I continued to walk up and down every row searching for balls while Nick and Bryan did the same thing.  I soon found ball #5, tucked at the bottom of a folded up chair.  Nick also found five.  Progressive Field is an Easter Egg heaven.

Then I realized something was wrong.  There were no Indians on the field.  The groundscrew had come out and started watering the dirt on the infield.
Not good.  I was off to a fantastic start, and the Indians are a great right field hitting BP team.  I would’ve had an excellent chance at double digits. 

The crowd was sparse too.
When the ball was in view, I went to work.  I had to be quick because there were policemen in the market pavilion behind me, and a worker who’s supposed to watch the bullpen.  I was able to get the ball on the first attempt, and slowly reeled it in for ball #7.  A few impressed spectators asked me how I was able to get the ball, and I explained the glove trick to them.

I went back to left field, but it was really crowded at this point.  I had little range. 
Luckily, a right handed batter hit a ball that bounced on the warning track, and into the trees in Heritage Park.  I had a chance to nab my 400th career ball.  I ran up the steps in center field and over to Heritage Park.

When I got to the spot, a teenager had a ball and was gloating about his prize.  Oh well.  I decided to check anyway.  Wouldn’t you know it, there it was, a ball that was tucked away at the back of the outfield wall behind the base of one of the trees.  It would be a tough ball to get because one of the monuments prevented me from inserting the collapsible ruler straight on.
After some finangling, I was able to get the ball close enough to reach in and grab ball #8 (#400).

I ended BP over in left field.  Unfortunately, the last group featured utility players and back ups, so few home runs were hit.

I ended the day with eight baseballs.  I went back to Heritage Park to do one last check for any balls that I may have missed.  On my way there, an old guy, who had been repeatedly pestering me in right field for baseballs offered to buy one off of me for $3.  I turned him down.  “Sorry, I don’t sell them.”  When I was looking for balls in Heritage Park, along with Nick, a teenager offered Nick $20 for a ball.  When Nick turned him down, he made me the same offer.  I also turned him down.  “I don’t sell them, plus I wrote on all the ones I got.  Sorry.”  I told him.  If I had brought along some extras I would’ve sold him one.  I probably have at least 100 MLB balls at home that I didn’t snag, and aren’t part of my official collection.  I use them to give away on occasion, especially in times like the scenario that played out with ball #4 today.

After BP, I took off, hoping to get home before dusk.  Which I did achieve, even with a stop at Wendy’s for dinner. (Small Chili, 1 Grilled Chicken Go-Wrap).
I haven’t been staying at many games lately.  I don’t have time to with my new hobby.

Today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game:  8 Balls (5 hit, 3 device)
Season:  234 Balls (124 hit, 75 thrown, 35 device)
Games:  47 Games (5 of them didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.98 Balls per Game
Career: 400 Balls
Attendance:  22,371

7-6-09 Citizens Bank Park

The Pirates are out of town until July 17th, which would mean 17 days without a baseball game for me.  I decided to break up the drought by attending a game in Philadelphia.

I’d never been to a baseball game in Philly before, so I was interested to see what Citizens Bank Park had to offer.

I got to the stadium at 2:35, almost 2 full hours before the gates were to even open.  I figured that I would give myself some extra time to account for traffic and to stop for lunch.  (I ended up not stopping because my GPS directed me to a non-existent phantom Wendy’s.  Frustrated, I decided to eat at the stadium.)  I was there so early, that the parking attendant thought I worked at McFadden’s.

I approached the stadium and took a walk around the exterior. 
It had a nice facade, nice landscaping, and was in a decent enough area. 

The first matter of business was to find an open ticket window and buy a ticket for today’s game.  I walked past the first base entrance
then realized that the Reds had many more righties than lefties, and I’d have a better chance back in the packed left field seats.

Brandon Phillips put on a show in batting practice.  One of his home runs came right to me, I was camped underneath it, ready to make the catch, when at the moment the ball was several feet from my glove, about 5 people’s arms slammed into mine.  My arm moved, and the ball tipped off my glove.  I didn’t get the ball.  Fans in Philadelphia are much more agressive when it comes to going a
fter home run balls in batting practice than in Pittsburgh or Cleveland.  In Pittsburgh, us ballhawks spread out and have our own little zones that we tend to stay in.  We never run into each other or rob each other of home runs when another is camped under one.  Next time I go to a game in Philly I’ll be prepared.

I was shut out for the rest of batting practice and ended with 2 baseballs. 

I walked around the concourse.  I liked how the Phillies post their line up on a large brick wall at the entrance to the left field gate:
The Phillies top 2 stars for my money:
photo(130).jpgThe Liberty Bell (which gongs after a Phillies player goes deep):
Here was my view from my seat:
photo(126).jpgThe Phillies would go on to knock out starter Johnny Cueto in the first inning and score an amazing 10 runs in the first inning.  They would go on to win the game 22-1.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended such a lopsided game.

I made my back to my hotel in Philadelphia.  (Which didn’t have Internet). Ran a few miles on the treadmill in the fitness center, did 31 floors on a stairmaster, and went to bed.
I then disappeared for the next week (which is why its taken me a week to get this entry up) to the shore.
Today’s baseballs:
Sweet spots:
Game:  2 balls (2 hit)
Season:   226 balls (119 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games:  46 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.91 balls per game
Career: 392 balls
Attendance: 41,548

6-30-09 PNC Park

Today was a bounce back day for me.  After nearly being shut out yesterday, I got on the board quickly today.

Within the first 30 seconds of being in the park, I had a ball.   Upon entering the bleacher area, I checked in the general admission bleachers (upper bleachers).  Balls rarely go up there, but every now and then a power hitter will reach them, or a ball will bounce on the concrete and settle up there.

I ran up the steps and found ball #1 waiting for me in the front row.

I got ball #2 off the bat of Jason Jaramillo, who was hitting right handed.  He hit a high fly ball to my right.  I ran over a section, but lost the ball in the sun momentarily.  The ball landed on a bleacher and settled near my feet, and I was able to reach down and quickly grab it.

Ball #3 came from Brandon Moss.  He fielded a ball and looked to the bleachers.  I held my glove up, and he fired the ball at me. 

The Pirates wrapped up their portion of batting practice a bit early.  There was a ball up against the outfield wall that I was waiting to use the glove trick on.  I wasn’t going to do the trick with the Pirates in the field, because they all recognize me by now, and I don’t want to look greedy.  Luckily, the Pirates jogged off the field, leaving the ball at the wall.  I sprang into action and reeled in ball #4 with the glove trick.

The Cubs came out to hit, and Alfonso Soriano began shagging in left field. 
Luckily, he was only focused on the balls that a coach was hitting him, and didn’t bother himself with any BP balls hit his way.  A Cubs batter hit a line drive that trickled to the edge of the warning track.  It was glove trickable, but not without drawing lots of attention to myself from throwing my glove a good 15 feet or more out onto the field.  I decided to let it go. 

Then, a grounds keeper walked by and kicked the ball to the base of the wall.  “Maybe they’ll toss it up to one of yinz,” he said. 
Game:  7 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season:  224 balls (117 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games:  45 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.98 balls per game
Career:  390 balls
Attendance:  17,054

6-29-09 PNC Park

Today wasn’t a great day for me.

I arrived to the ballpark late, around 4:55PM, and was at the back of a massive line.  I probably was going to miss the first 7 minutes or so of batting practice.  (There is only one guy who scans tickets for the first half hour or so).

Luckily, my friend and fellow ballhawk Jim, spotted me walking up to the line.  He came and got me and let me stand with him in the front of the line.  Thanks to Jim, I now had a very good chance of getting a ball early.  Unfortunately, there were no Easter Eggs to be found.

Throughout the Pirates batting practice, there were a handful of home runs, but they carried farther than usual, over my head.  I ended the Pirates portion of batting practice with nothing.

No worries, the Cubs had Soriano, Lee, Soto, Ramirez, etc.  I’d be fine.  However, all of the Cubs top hitters were practicing an opposite field approach.  Very few home runs at all were hit into the left field bleachers.

5:30 rolled around, and the rest of the general public poured in. 
I now had very limited range, and still zero baseballs.

I stayed in left field until the last group came up to hit.  It was 5:45 or so, and I still had nothing to show for my efforts.  I had maintained a streak of around 60 games of getting at least 1 ball.  I started to feel that this streak would end today.  It started in August of 2008.

In left field, I waited for my chance to snag a home run ball.  The Cubs lefties weren’t hitting with much power, and the home runs they did hit, were hit to the right field seats.

6PM, still no baseballs.  I had decided that I was going home after batting practice anyway.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get shut out, and my streak was over.

However, Kosuke Fukudome lined a home run ball to section 141, the section directly against the right field wall. 

My friend Jim took off after it and was first to the spot.  The ball hit off of his hands, and fell to the floor.  I was right behind him and saw the ball bouncing around in the aisle.  Jim wasn’t able to locate it right away.  I reached down and picked up my one and only ball of the day.  Luckily, Jim beat about three teenagers in a race to a ball in left field earlier, so he was already on the board.

It was a rough day for BP.  The top four ballhawks in PNC Park recorded tallies of 2, 2, 1, and 1.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  I hope.

Today’s one baseball.
Game:  1 ball (1 hit)
Season:  217 balls (113 hit, 74 thrown, 30 device)
Games:  44 games attended (5 without BP)
Average:   4.93 balls per game
Career:  383 balls
Attendance:  15,400